WHEN THE CRITICS SAVAGE their prey, they often hit the mark. I can think of oodles of stinkers that took a nasty uppercut from a pissed-off hack, and it was delivered for all the right reasons.
But sometimes the scribblers took umbrage at an album that went on to sell millions, and rank up there in the all-time greatest album lists. The thing is, they might actually have had a point. Here we look at some of those floggings written at the time of release that are now generally regarded as out of touch.
Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin
“In their willingness to waste their considerable talent on unworthy material the Zeppelin has produced an album which is sadly reminiscent of Truth. Like the Jeff Beck Group they are also perfectly willing to make themselves a two- (or, more accurately, one-a-half) man show. It would seem that, if they’re to help fill the void created by the demise of Cream, they will have to find a producer (and editor) and some material worthy of their collective attention.”
This review pissed off Jimmy Page so much he refused to speak to Rolling Stone for many years.
The Rolling Stones — Exile on Main Street
“Exile On Main Street spends its four sides shading the same song in as many variations as there are Rolling Stone readymades to fill them, and if on the one hand they prove the group’s eternal constancy and appeal, it’s on the other that you can leave the album and still feel vaguely unsatisfied, not quite brought to the peaks that this band of bands has always held out as a special prize in the past. Hopefully, Exile On Main Street will give them the solid footing they need to open up, and with a little horizon-expanding, they might even deliver it to us the next time around.”
‘Vaguely unsatisfied’ is perhaps not the harshest words dished out, but this is The Stones and they weren’t often give a back-handed slap.
Neil Young – After the Gold Rush
“Neil Young devotees will probably spend the next few weeks trying desperately to convince themselves that After The Gold Rush is good music. But they’ll be kidding themselves. For despite the fact that the album contains some potentially first rate material, none of the songs here rise above the uniformly dull surface. In my listening, the problem appears to be that most of this music was simply not ready to be recorded at the time of the sessions. It needed time to mature. On the album the band never really gets behind the songs and Young himself has trouble singing many of them. Set before the buying public before it was done, this pie is only half-baked.”
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
By Ben Edmonds – Rolling Stone
“Wish You Were Here is about the machinery of a music industry that made and helped break Syd Barrett. Their treatment, though, is so solemn that you have to ask what the point is. If your use of the machinery isn’t alive enough to transcend its solemn hum — even if that hum is your subject — then you’re automatically trapped. In offering not so much as a hint of liberation, that’s where this album leaves Pink Floyd.”
Lou Reed — Berlin
“ …. Berlin takes the listener into a distorted and degenerate demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide. … There are certain records that are so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them.”
The Ramones: The Ramones
“The Ramones are the latest bumptious band of degenerate no-talents whose achievement to date is to advance beyond the boundaries of New York City and purely on the strength of a spate of convincing literature projecting the Ramones as God’s gift to rock music.
“They have been greeted with instant adulation by an army of duped fans. Musically, they do not deal in subtlety or variation of any kind, their rule is to be as incompetent as possible.”
Young Stephen Patrick Morrissey may have missed the point perhaps in reviewing this, but I have to admit that I find the Ramones debut somewhat disappointing though I accept why it is now highly regarded.
Morrissey’s hope that their debut “should be rightly filed and forgotten,” has not been followed through.
And finally, one from one our own archive, a review I am extremely proud as it truly slayed a sacred indie cow. There was blood.
The National: Trouble Will Find Me
“It seems an appropriate time to pierce the bubble of a band who have seduced cloth-eared critics and music fans forced to feast on a steady diet of tripe and cold chips for years now.
Now, we have to endure another round of half-considered reviews, as critics become immersed in the stupifying thought-process of ‘never mind the quality feel the width’.
Listening to Trouble Will Find Me is a turgid exercise in self-flagellation. The proverbial terms paint and dry are most appropriate as singer Matt Berninger punishes the ears. I Should Live In Salt is a monotone dirge that remains at the same pace throughout. Another uphill stream, Demons, would be ideal for a road trip along a straight motorway with a 30km/h speed limit for its entirety.”